Keeping the time

As I write this, it is 1.20 am on Sunday, October 25. If I keep writing for exactly another hour (which I won’t), I’ll finish at, well, at 1.20 am. And that is, of course, because tonight the clocks change in these islands, and we will be moving from British Summer Time (BST – do we actually call it that in Ireland?) to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). We get an extra hour’s sleep, but that’s the only advantage I can think of.

The standard time in these parts is GMT. But in the early 20th century, at the suggestion of a Kent builder, William Willett, the idea was considered of moving the clocks back for the duration of the summer and early autumn. It was however only put into practice after the Germans changed their clocks during the First World War, in order to conserve energy. The United Kingdom (together with a number of European countries) followed suit in 1916, and the United States adopted the practice in 1918.

And that’s where it all remained, until 1968. For a period of three years Britain and Ireland maintained summer time throughout the year, in order to keep the afternoons light for longer. But largely because of complaints from Scottish farmers and schools about the dark mornings, the practice of changing clocks then resumed, and has stayed with us ever since.

I think we should reconsider all this. The costs and complications of changing the clocks are considerable, and it has been established that the darker afternoons in the winter increase road accident fatalities. Farmers, I suspect, no longer need the lighter mornings. I believe we should discontinue the clock changes and stay with summer time for the entire year. Sorry, Greenwich, but that’s what I think. I hate the dark afternoons.

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9 Comments on “Keeping the time”

  1. Vincent Says:

    I think Senator Fergal Quinns(NUI) idea is worth a mention, forget London time and move to Paris time and have done with it once and for all time. It is pure stupid that Galway is in theory on the same time as Essex. While Rennes in Brittany is an hour behind.
    Anyhooos, for me, between the telescope and the Hound, plus the fact that for some reason I can write like a demon in the early hours. I will ignore the issue mostly.
    On a more general point about time, which I find vastly more irritating. Why do certain places open at 10am, libraries/Banks/certain professions. Why when it is easier to shop am I prevented from getting Wine before 10.30 and Sunday 12.30. How in Gods name will it matter to someone with a drink problem when is alcohol purchase time. This is just another un-thought-out policy.
    Oh, was it not interesting that the English became all huffy that Rome did not inform Canterbury of his intentions, when they could have strengthened their position by including -as Rome did- all the Communion, Irish, USA, along with everyone else.


    • Vincent, I am not sure whether being in the same time zone as Germany, Austria and France – not to mention Luxembourg – would help us all that much, if at the same time Dublin were in a different time zone from Belfast. I’d enjoy the very very very late evenings, but might not enjoy the additional four months of getting up in the dark…

      • Wendymr Says:

        I’d enjoy the very very very late evenings, but might not enjoy the additional four months of getting up in the dark…

        But that’s exactly what you’d get if Ireland were to stay on BST all year around – whether or not the UK did the same.

        Of course, time is an artificial construct in any case, but before the standardisation of time and time zones – as a result of the railways, of course – Dublin’s time was not the same as the west of mainland Britain. That would have given you even darker evenings!

  2. Iainmacl Says:

    well it does actually change all over Europe as we switch from European Summer Time..ie the hour shift is not restricted to Ireland and the UK, so don’t blame those poor Scottish farmers and school-children! The wikipedia pages aren’t bad on this topic, actually . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Summer_Time

    Is this not just another symptom of how capitalist economics blatantly disregards the natural world? The days are shorter, why not shorten the working day in winter -less stress, less seasonal despair and a reconnection with nature. 😉


    • Capitalist economics? You mean the Soviets gave people time off in the winter when it was dark? Or that North Korea does that? Iain, I think your connection there is tenuous, to say no more…

      • Donal_C Says:

        All the same, it’s interesting to consider the link between daylight and attitudes towards work in cultural contexts where social reputation is important. When I lived in Tokyo, I heard that Japanese politicians had debated the re-introduction of daylight savings time (DST). One counter-argument was that an extra hour’s daylight in the evening would make it even more difficult for corporate employees to go home at a reasonable hour because of the shame of leaving the office when it was bright.

  3. Cormac Says:

    Well said, I can’t see the advantage either, and there are the disadvantages you mention. Another is the ‘hobbies’ factor -it’s v hard to motivate oneself to do something after work when darkness is imminent..
    The european angle puzzles me.Since school starts at 8 at the latest, they go to school in the dark anyway…I remember doing this!


  4. Wendy – actually by staying on BST you would hardly get any additional dark mornings at all (well, I guess it depends on when you get up). By the time the clocks change it is already dark in the mornings at around 7 am, and the clock change gets you about two additional weeks of light at that time. The it’s dark again.


  5. […] we were about to change the clocks in order to slip back into Greenwich Mean Time for the winter, I suggested that we might like to stop doing this and stay on summer time all year round. Now the whole thing […]


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